Taylor visits campus to discuss new movie, old work

By Clarissa Grunwald ’17, Staff Writer

Director Alan Taylor came to campus to talk to students about his work in both television and film Wednesday and Thursday. Taylor’s most recent movie, Thor: The Dark World, was released in theaters on Friday. His past work includes directing episodes of Game of Thrones, Boardwalk Empire, Six Feet Under, Deadwood, Sex in the City, Homicide, and The Sopranos; for the latter, Taylor won an Emmy for directing the finale.

Taylor gave a lecture that was open to all students, discussing how he first got into directing, his experiences as a director, his work, his plans for the future, and more Wednesday.

Initially a history major, Taylor did not originally plan on going into directing; however, he felt constrained in academia and desired a career path with more creative options. His ultimate decision to make films was met with some skepticism from his mother.

“She thought I was running away to join the circus,” he joked.

His films still draw inspiration from historical elements as well as art. His mother, an art historian, took him around to museums when he was younger, and the paintings he saw have influenced his work.

Despite this, Taylor considers his approach to filmmaking as that of a craftsman.

“If I didn’t do this, I’d build furniture,” he said.

For students interested in careers in film, he advised them to make movies as often as possible, write scripts that they can get excited about, and try to work a minor role on a film set to get an idea of how things work.

“Make movies. See what works,” he said. “See what doesn’t work,” he advised students.

Although Taylor did go to film school, he says that it is neither a foolproof nor necessary way into filmmaking.

“It’s a wild industry,” he said. “There’s no single way in.”

Taylor’s extensive work in television and in movie franchises, such as Thor, forced him to learn how to pick up existing characters and storylines. Contributing to a story while staying true to its origins, said Taylor, requires both balance and flexibility.

“You come in, jump on the train, and try to bring something to it,” he said.

Although usually hard on himself and his work, Taylor says there are still things that turned out exactly how he wanted.

“I am so proud of Thor’s hair,” he said.

Additionally,  he showed his two favorite scenes from Game of Thrones: the execution scene from season one, episode nine, “Baelor,” and the ending scene of season one, episode 10, “Fire and Blood.” Both, he felt, turned out especially well, and especially the latter, which he described as very difficult to shoot.

“[It was] one of the few times when what I had in my head was exactly what I got,” he said of the ending scene of “Fire and Blood.”

During his visit, Taylor gave talks to students in classes ranging from Introduction to Film and Media Studies, Violent Entertainments, Acting, and more. On Wednesday night, following his lecture, he had dinner with 18 of students from Brooks College House, and on Thursday afternoon he ate lunch  and conversed with a group of professors.

Cecile Zorach, professor of German and German studies, invited Taylor , her nephew,  to campus after mentioning their relationship to Karen Campbell, associate professor of German, during a discussion of Norse Mythology. With encouragement from Dirk Eitzen, professor of Film and Media Studies, Campbell asked Taylor if he would like to visit campus, and he agreed.

Zachary Reese, video production program manager, designed a poster, put information about the event on the College’s calendar, and sent out emails announcing the event. The event  was sponsored by the Philadelphia Alumni Writer’s House, Brooks College House, and the German and German studies department.

“This is all pretty routine stuff,” Eitzen said, who scheduled the event. “But on account of Mr. Taylor’s busy schedule, it happened pretty much at the last minute.”

Currently, Taylor is beginning production on a new Terminator movie, slated for release in 2015. At some point, he may return to Game of Thrones — “If there are any characters still alive,” he said.

After hearing his lecture, some students went to try and  get autographs and pictures with Taylor.

“Listening to him talk about his experience on the set and what he has to do enlightened me about filmmaking,” said Maryann Uhlman ’17, who attended the talk. “He responded [to the questions] in such a good way.”

First-year Clarissa Grunwald is a staff writer. Her email is cgrunwal@fandm.edu.

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